A bitter misunderstanding between United Nations and the government of South Sudan over control of the Juba International Airport, is threatening further deployment of peacekeeping forces in the war wrecked northern neighbor.
The Sudanese army has since intensified deployment at the country’s main airport in the capital Juba, and grounded all UN aircraft there.
South Sudanese are protesting what they interpreted as UN’s intention to take full control of the airport.
Up to 4,000 peacekeepers assigned to the African country, moved to the airport and tried to take control of it according to President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny. He said that was not part of the troupes’ mandate.
“They cannot come here to control our airport. It is our airport and if they wanted to cooperate with us, they must refrain from (deploying in) places they are not authorized,” he said.
The U.N. Security Council agreed in August last year to deploy the regional protection force of 4,000 extra peacekeepers, mostly from Rwanda and Ethiopia, after renewed heavy fighting broke out between troops loyal to Kiir and those backing former Vice President Riek Machar.
The force was to supplement a 12,000-strong U.N. force already on the ground, but South Sudan has been reluctant to accept it, saying it has reservations over the nationalities of the troops and the armaments they can carry.
A small batch started trickling in three months ago, but diplomats said the latest dispute could bring further delays.